Elijah celebrated his first birthday on Sunday.
I’ve learned a lot during my first year of motherhood, but yesterday, I learned a lot about birthdays.
I didn’t want to have a big, spendy, consumeristic birthday party for Elijah, but my mom wanted to do a theme. We picked a cowboy theme, so I figured we’d get some sort of cowboy cake and say howdy instead of hi to our guests. My mom figured she’d buy a dozen cowboy hats and cowboy themed gifts for goodie bags for all the kids who would come. She bought cowboy themed decorations and suggested we get catering from Qdoba to feed everyone (I was on board for Qdoba, because I love it). She searched for cowboy costumes for Elijah and his baby cousin online, and then requested that my grandma make them costumes (which turned out adorable!).
The party was all set up, it looked amazing in our house. We had all sorts of fun decorations and yummy food. It cost a small fortune.
And no one came.
Okay, no one is an over statement. My sister and my neice flew in from Missouri to knock out his birthday and Thanksgiving with us (she also wanted to get her daughter baptized in our church, the church we both grew up in). My aunt, cousin, and cousin’s baby came. And my best friend swung by for an hour or so, but then had to leave to take care of a work emergency. But besides that, no one.
Qdoba catering for 20 sat, getting cold. 10 cowboy hats filled with western themed goodies sat waiting for children who never came. At first I was pretty depressed (none of my friends showed for my baby shower either) but then I remembered that most of my friends are single and childless, and a 1 year old’s birthday party surely didn’t sound like a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Many of them also work on weekends, so they couldn’t have come even if they wanted to. And my son was born smack dab in the middle of hunting season, so that meant most of my family was busy off in the mountains.
To top it all off, Elijah decided to take a mega nap half an hour before the party began, and slept through most of his party.
What lesson did I learn? That birthdays are cheaper, less stressful, less wasteful and less disappointing if I keep them low key, small and intimate. Elijah still had a ton of fun. His cousin and second cousin were there to play with. He got some toy cars, a boat and a toy that plays music when you press buttons. He ate a mini banana cream pie and some Goldfish crackers. He had the time of his life.
He could have cared less about the western scene my mom and sister hung up on the wall. He could have cared less if we had dropped a couple of hundred bucks on Qdoba catering. He would have been just as happy, maybe more happy, with mac and cheese and fish sticks. And I would have $200 more in my pocket than I do right now.
Of course when Elijah gets older, he might expect a little more from birthdays, but for now, all he needs is close family and his favorite foods. When he’s in school, I’m sure I can expect more guests for birthday parties, but for the next few years, if I spend more than $100 on a birthday (including gifts) I’m doing something wrong.
One thing I did do this birthday that I want to make a lifetime tradition for Elijah and any other children I might have, is I wrote him a letter. I wrote him a letter telling him about the first year of his life and what my hopes and dreams are for him. I wrote the letter and I sealed it in an envelope and tucked it away, never to be seen by anyone but him and me. I got this idea because there is a large part of me that is afraid I will die before he is old enough to remember me (I’m in the military, after all) and I want him to have some sort of token of my love for him if I am not around to show him. Hopefully, I won’t be dieing until he has children, maybe even grandchildren, of his own, but no matter when he gets these letters, I’m sure they will be meaningful for him. I don’t know when I will give them to him. Maybe when he graduates from high school? College? When he gets married? Has his first child? When I die (obviously I won’t be “giving” them to him then, but it would be part of his inheritance, I suppose)? I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.